Week of football will boost national teams, says Platini

Last Updated: Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 23:02

Nice: UEFA`s new "week of football" to be used in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign is being introduced to boost international football because it has been overshadowed by the club game, UEFA president Michel Platini said on Saturday.

"It was a political decision," he told a news conference ahead of Sunday`s draw for the qualifiers.

"We took it to try and promote the football of national teams. Clubs play on almost every day of the week and as a result, international football has been pushed out of the limelight and we would like to see it take that limelight again.

"When I was playing, for St Etienne, or Juventus or France, it made no difference, but times change and it is time national football had more importance again."

The 13-month qualifying campaign begins in September and 23 of UEFA`s 54 members will eventually join hosts France in the expanded 24-team finals in 2016.

Platini revealed that when the decision to increase the finals was taken in 2008, and approved at the 2009 Congress, England, Germany and one other unnamed major country were against the idea.

On Friday Germany coach Joachim Loew repeated that view and said he did not think the expanded tournament was a good idea.

"As a coach I think increasing the number of teams in the European Championship is questionable and the same goes for the qualifying tournament," Loew said.

"It reduces the sporting value of not only individual matches but also of the entire tournament," he said on the German FA`s official website (www.dfb.de).

TONGUE-IN-CHEEK

In typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, Platini shrugged and said "if they don`t like it they don`t have to take part!

"But this is very important for the international game."

The week of football means that instead of 20 or so matches being played on Fridays and Tuesday as at present, eight to 10 matches will be played on six successive nights from Thursday through to the following Tuesday.

Double-headers will be played on Thursdays and Sundays, Fridays and Mondays and Saturdays and Tuesdays. All matches will kick off at 2045 CET (Central European Time) and there will be two kickoff times at the weekend of 1800 CET and 2045 CET.

Asked if this idea could send divorce rates rocketing, Platini smiled and said: "I have no answer to that."

But he did say that the 24-team finals would not dilute the quality of the 16-team format.

"Perhaps the pressure on the five or six leading teams to qualify will be eased, but the pressure on teams ranked 15 to 40 will be intense," he said.

"We will have 24 very good teams in the finals. And those teams that don`t make the last 24 it will call for a 32-team finals and maybe a finals for all 54 associations, but that is for the future."

UEFA also revealed some of the details of the qualifying competition with teams not playing more than two home or away matches in a row and all sides playing each other once before the reverse fixtures take place. All teams will finish with a home and away or away and home sequence of games.

The qualifiers begin in September and will end in October 2015 with the playoffs among eight runners-up scheduled for November 2015. The finals will be staged in June and July 2016.

Reuters

First Published: Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 23:02

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